The Georgia Department of Corrections must change its discriminatory policies

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On behalf of the families and loved ones of the 50,000+ residents housed in Georgia State prisons, we demand that the  Georgia Department of Corrections change its discriminatory “Approved List” policies.

As of October 1st, 2018, the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC)  is implementing a new communications policy which will drastically impact every resident's ability to communicate with their loved ones and supporters. This new policy is an expansion of the current "Approved List" policy which is a form of torture that specifically targets poor families, and prevents them from contacting and supporting their incarcerated loved ones.


The GDOC allows residents to update their visitation list 2 times per year. The resident is given a visitation application to mail home to loved ones which have to be filled out and returned along with a large amount of personal documentation. This required documentation list includes; photo ID, SS card, Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, and more. Anyone filling out the application must also submit to a background check. Warrant checks are also run on family or loved ones who go to Georgia prisons for in-person visitations. Many people have been arrested while visiting their incarcerated loved ones.  


We are fully aware that there needs to be a security process to ensure that IN PERSON visitations are safe for everyone.  What makes the GDOC policies torturous for the residents?

1) Almost no one is approved. While the GDOC claims that friends may apply, they usually ONLY APPROVE immediate family. Anyone with a criminal record is usually denied.

2) ONLY people on the "Approved" visitation list are allowed to :

Visit the prison for an in-person visitation
send money (WHY?)
order food packages through the state provided package company (WHY?)
order clothing packages through the provided  package company (WHY?)
online video visitation (WHY?)

3) All funds MUST go through JPay with a $4- $7 additional fee, and again the money is not accepted unless you are on the approved list. There is a place on the GDOC website where they offer directions on how to send a money order, however, those funds are processed through Jpay, where additional fees are deducted.

 

Why Do Residents of the GDOC need money? Because they do not provide everything a person needs to be healthy. Here is what the GDOC provides to its residents.

Clothing - Uniforms, white undershirts, 3 pair of underwear, 3 pairs of socks, one pair of boots, 1 pair of pajamas, 1 winter coat. Additional clothing items may be ordered from the prison-approved clothing package that is provided to the residents. They have the option to order sweatshirts, thermals, shorts, and clothing items. The resident fills out an order form and sends it home where someone on the APPROVED Visitation List can purchase. Gender-affirming clothing has to be fought for though it is supposed to be provided without issue. It is not automatically provided to the Trans / GNC population.

Personal Items- Once a week the GDOC calls "Supplies", Everyone is given toilet paper, travel size toothpaste (which residents use to clean the toilet, not their teeth), and a small bar of blue soap (which is excellent for washing whites but extremely irritating to the skin). In women's facilities, each resident is given either 30 pads or 15 tampons once a month. Personal items such as shampoo, REAL deodorant, hair care items (hair is required to be clean & neat), combs, brushes, & toothbrushes can be purchased off of the weekly Commissary Sheet IF the resident receives money from someone on the "Approved"  Visitation List. Those items are not accessible to people who do not have an approved person on their list. We are STILL fighting to have Gender affirming personal products added to the prison commissary, even though they are supposed to be provided.

Food Items- In an attempt to save money, Ga. Prisons do NOT provide lunch on weekends (Friday, Saturday, & Sunday) or Holidays. They serve breakfast every morning around 4:30 am, and dinner is served around 5:30 pm. Residents can go 12 hours or more without eating for days ... unless they are able to order food from the weekly Commissary, which again, requires someone on the APPROVED Visitation List.


Recently,  the GDOC announced that the "approved list" policy will be implemented for Jpay communications/emails as well. This is extremely detrimental to ALL state prison residents. The email services enable a resident to reach out for help when there is an immediate need for support. Research has proven that people who have outside support are more likely to be successful in re-entry and less likely to return to prison. The number of inmate suicides in Georgia has skyrocketed over recent years. There have been 21 inmate suicides in 2018 alone. There is literally NO valid reason for the GDOC to take this cruel and inhumane action against the state residents and their loved ones. This is yet another way to prevent residents from having outside support and connections.

Why does the GDOC have these policies?  

They claim these policies prevent illegal activity and promote “safety” among residents. In reality, these policies have done the exact opposite of what they were intended to do. Since the implementation of these “Approved List” policies, the number of incidents involving illegal personal dealings between officers and residents has dramatically increased. Inmate to inmate dealings has also increased due to lack of access to funds because of these policies. In addition, the state is actually losing much-needed funds that would come from commissary and communications purchases. These policies segregate residents from healthy connections in the free world that are beneficial to their rehabilitation. They are clearly not in place for the safety and well being of state residents, so why does the GDOC strictly limit communications to the outside world?

1)They are trying to limit the number of complaints leaking from the residents, and their families, regarding abuse and neglect.

2)They want to create a sense of abandonment and despair among the resident. Residents without family contact are less likely to resist if they have no one to speak for them on the outside.

3) The GDOC needs to maintain high populations with long-term and returning residents. The GA. prison system is a labor-based system. They use residents for free labor, so rehabilitation is not financially beneficial to their purpose. They need to keep the prison beds full of docile workers.

 


What do we want?  The families and loved ones of our residents are devastated by this new “Approved List” policy. Some loved ones have criminal records that will prevent them from being approved for communication. Many formerly incarcerated folks are panicking over being able to continue to send emotional support to their loved ones inside.  We demand the GDOC change these unnecessary and harmful policies, particularly women’s facilities, which has a devastating impact on the children of the resident.

Please sign this petition and help support the humane and fair treatment of residents of the Georgia Department Of Corrections.



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